I was recently contacted by a specwriter who had specified double-cylinder deadbolts for the main entrance to an assembly occupancy.  Although the AHJ had originally approved the plan, he changed his mind after the doors and hardware were installed.  The opening had the proper signage required by code (“This door to remain unlocked when this space is occupied.”), and the lock had an indicator so that it was readily distinguishable as locked.  The inactive leaf had automatic flush bolts and didn’t have a push bar or pull on the egress side – this is above and beyond what I usually see in this application.  The doors often have manual flush bolts and a stationary push bar on the inactive leaf – even though this is not technically allowed in many locations.

After installation, the AHJ revoked the use of the key-operated lock – this is specifically addressed by the IBC: “The use of the key-operated locking device is revocable by the building official for due cause.”  What makes this application especially risky to specify is that an AHJ could revoke permission at any point during the life of the building.  For this reason I have almost never specified double-cylinder deadbolts on main entrance doors (or anywhere else).  Even when an architect or specifier follows exactly what is required by code, an AHJ could revoke permission and at that point it could become an expensive change.  There’s just no way to know.

When I was in New Orleans last week, I came across some egress doors with double-cylinder deadbolts in my means of egress.  These doors had no signage and no indicators.  When I tried to use the doors early in the morning, they were all locked.  As you can see from the photo, I was not the only person awake at that hour (7 a.m.).  I can see why the hotel would want those doors locked – especially at night – but locking them with a key-operated lock created a non-code-compliant situation.  There are plenty of other hardware options that would have provided the necessary security without compromising egress.

An iDigHardware reader just sent me another example, where the doors have the required signage and indicator deadbolt, but were locked when the retail store was occupied.  This adds another risk factor – when we specify a project, we have no idea if future owners or occupants will use the doors as required by code.  So whether the risk comes from the potential for AHJ disapproval, or from the doors being locked when they are not allowed to be, there are definitely risks associated with this application.  Specifier beware!

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